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Keep your vents cleared

We all know winter means shoveling and snow-blowing walkways and stairs (most years!). But there's one other place you should give extra attention during snowy times: furnace vents.

Gas and oil furnaces have vent pipes that allow a smooth intake of air into the system and carry gas vapors away from the house. During the winter, these vents can become clogged with snow, ice and other debris.

Not only do clogged vents reduce furnace efficiency and raise heating costs, they increase the danger of deadly carbon monoxide build-up in your home. A detector will help you monitor your household's CO2 level, but you should also reduce your risks at the source.

Here are some hints to keep your furnace vents in working order in any season:  

  • Prepare year-round: Check vents periodically; cut back any weeds or shrubbery growing around the vents, and make sure they are free of debris. Small critters and insects sometimes like to nest in vents. If you need to remove nesting material, use all necessary personal protection equipment. When in doubt, call a professional exterminator.
  • During a snow event: Check vents while the snow is coming down. Remove accumulating snow to prevent blockage. Be careful not to bang on vents, as this can damage them; instead, simply scrape snow away with your shovel and your hands.
  • Beware of ice build-up: If ice forms in vents, use a blow dryer at medium heat to melt the blockage. Be sure the dryer is plugged into a GCFI-equipped outlet and that the cord is not exposed to water. Also, check the space above the furnace vents for icicles and CAREFULLY knock them down with a broom handle or long stick. This will keep ice from melting into the vents and refreezing.

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